This recipe for Cheese Souffle is an extract from A lifetime of cooking, teaching and writing from The French Kitchen by Diane Holuigue. Much more than a recipe book, the best-selling author of The French Kitchen, Diane Holuigue, seeks to demystify the art of cooking, explaining the logic behind the technique.
Combining the concepts of classical French cooking from Diane Holuigue’s best-selling title The French Kitchen (first published in 1983); teachings from her essential instructive manual The Clever Cook; and a breathtaking array of inspiring and informative travel writing taken from Postcards from Kitchens Abroad; this new volume encompasses Diane Holuigue’s impressive culinary and literary career.
Master Recipe for “Cheese Souffle” by Diane Holuigue
Serves 4 in 1 large soufflé bowl (6 in small ramekins)
450ml (¾ pint) milk
55g (use 2¼oz) butter
50g (2oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
salt, white pepper, nutmeg
50g (2oz) gruyère, grated
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
optional: 1 heaped tablespoon cream with 45% milk fat
optional: 1 teaspoon
1.2 litres (2 pints) soufflé bowl. Small ramekins are possible, but in the time you walk to and from the table, the first guests may watch their soufflé descending. I believe 1 large bowl for 4 people (or 1 each end of the table for 8, cooked on 1 shelf of the oven diagonally) is spectacular and the nicer way to go for savoury soufflés (though not for sweet). Serve with a large spoon to divide the soufflé into equal parts.
A collar is not essential in smaller ramekins; it is in large bowls as the weight is heavy as the soufflé rises, though a soufflé of good texture rises well and evenly without spilling over. But just in case your mixture is a little soft, it is wise to make a paper framework in which the soufflé can rise.
1. First, grease the bowl well. Then take a piece of buttered greaseproof paper long enough to fit around the bowl with a few centimetres of overlap and fold it in half lengthwise and butter well, too.
2. Fold the paper around the soufflé bowl. The butter helps the ends of the paper stick together, so your hands are free to tie a string around the paper without much trouble. Pull at the edges of the paper a bit to ensure it is a good round shape. Set aside.
3. Heat the milk in a saucepan. In another, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring well. Stir with a wire whisk rather than a wooden spoon, as there is no better instrument for blending. A wooden spoon simply collects flour particles in its bowl and moves them in circles round the pot, rather than breaking them up. Cook this mixture, called a roux, for 30 seconds or so to break down the gluten content of the flour.
4. Add the preheated milk to the roux. As long as the milk is hot, and you stir continuously until the mixture comes back to the boil, you may add the milk all at once without risking a lumpy sauce. The sauce will thicken only when it comes to the boil.
5. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and then add the grated gruyère. Add the cream, if using, and parmesan, if using, to strengthen the cheese flavour. Stir for 30 seconds or so to start the cheese melting.
6. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the mixture, off the stove. Stir after each addition, to avoid the eggs poaching in the hot mixture. In a bowl, whip the whites as firmly as possible. (Those who don’t whip well can add 2 extra egg whites.) Beat to a firm snow. Remember it is the whites that make the soufflé rise: make them strong and solid.
7. Return the saucepan to the heat for a moment, stir the sauce 2 or 3 times, then pour it into a bowl. Incorporate the egg whites in 2 batches, folding them in gently so as not to deflate them.
8. Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish. It should come just to the top of the bowl. Bake in a 200°C (400°F) oven for 30 minutes. This will give you a well-risen soufflé, but with a creamy centre—considered the best way to serve them. Many of my students give it another 5 minutes so that it is slightly firmer. It will rise even a little higher and will stay up a little longer at the table. If baking in 6 small ramekins, allow 15-18 minutes. Cut the string and peel (don’t pull) the paper off. Serve immediately—a soufflé cannot wait.
Master Recipe for “Cheese Souffle” by Diane Holuigue published with the permission of the publisher Slattery Media Group